Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brett Whiteley's ghost


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Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's ghost, oil on aluminium panel, 90x120cm.

I wanted to explore further the co-agency of media in creative practice. I wanted to discover, by doing, how oil paint that had been been substantially thinned with gum turps and Liquol might behave if given fairly free flow. Could i use repeated pourings of puddles to built up an expressive portrait? I envisaged a process very much like that employed in water color washes but using a pouring dispenser instead of brushes..

For that, i needed two other characteristics of water color - a reflective support and translucent pigments. For i knew from experience that watercolor paintings (unlike gouache) gain their glow from the light passing through the pigment and reflecting back out of the painting off the white paper beneath to the viewer.

I hoped that polished aluminium plate might achieve a similar effect but with more luminous 'edge'. I think it does. But trying to polish out the imperfections in the surface of a 900x1200x0.8mm plate is exhausting and requires more patience than i have. I used a wax based metal polish which made me worry about subsequent paint adhesion.

Since then i have discovered cerium oxide powder ($35 for 250gm) which is used to polish and clean glass. I haven't as yet tried it on metal. But it has promise and the huge advantage of being a powder that you mix with water to make a slurry. After rinsing there is absolutely no residue left on the surface.

For translucent paints i selected some semi-transluscent oil colors - Prussian blue (PB27), Viridian PG7) and Dioxazine Purple (PV23).

I had also wanted to find out what the best way of mixing, storing and applying might be. In the end I settled on used tomato ketchup plastic squeeze bottles with their screw-valve tops.


Once poured out onto the aluminium surface, allowed to settle and dry, I found the paint even granulated like watercolour. Was it the result of the Liquol mix left standing for a few days?








Unfortunately my photo fails to capture both the effects of scale (the image has a significant presence) and of reflective surface. The light gleams off the exposed parts and through the paint as one moves past and around the painting. It has an inorganic coldness  about it quite suited to the subject - Whiteley's ghost. And the work feels very permanent, being on metal.

Would i do another? Probably not. Not unless i could purchase perfectly polished sheets (unlike the dented and scratched panel i got from an industrial estate). And if i did, the pools of paint would be larger and more layered. And most importantly, i would have to acquire a work easel that i could tilt in all directions, including dead level. So, some investment needed if this were to become a polished professional art form. 

Meantime, it's been an interesting learning experience. And here it is .... Brett Whiteley's ghost.

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10 comments:

  1. wow! What an amazing portrait. I'm glad you showed the process--it is amazing, I can't get over the color. Brilliant!

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    1. Thanks Celeste. Yes, it is largely about colour.

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  2. yes the process it's very intresting, thanks for share it with us, the work it's so great

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  3. It looks amazing. I can only imagine what it look like in the flesh so to speak.

    Do you need the support to be rigid? I ask because you referred to an aluminum plate. I wondered if you could use sheet metal (it's nice and smooth) glue it onto plywood. It's relatively cheap here. You can get different thicknesses. I used it to make a metal box for my projection. I affixed it to a plywood box and it has stayed put I used a non-toxic adhesive. The kind that you put on to the two items you want to stick and let it stand to get tacky. It is tricky to put it on because you only get one chance. You definitely need helpers.

    Anyway good to see you working and exploring. Always am impressed with your experiments and results.

    Hugs from across the ocean :D

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    1. Thanks for that info, Elizabeth. I called it plate, but sheet might be more accurate. It's 0.8mm thick.

      I glued supportive wood edging on the back using glazing silicon. It lets you re-position the wood for quite a while before it cures but finally adheres to aluminum very well. It also leaves the whole assembly very light, not much heavier than a stretched canvas.

      Hugs right back!

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  4. This is working very well Harry! I'm glad to see your forging ahead. I am curious as to where this will go. I can only imagine the effect with the polished areas of the aluminum.

    Have you ever thought of acrylics? There are pouring mediums available. There are also interference colors which change color as the light changes. (It's sort of like the pearl coat finishes on some cars. I had a van that changed from magenta, to violet, to ultramarine blue.) I don't know how well acrylics would adhere to a polished aluminum surface. I know there are also iridescent metal powders that can be used with both oils and acrylics. Just a thought.

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    1. I didn't know about pouring mediums for acrylic, Davida. I'll check em out. Thanks.

      I am currently working on a large piece 190 x 270 cms and am blocking out the basic image with acryics. Its much faster and less toxic. But then i'll work over that will oils for texture and intensity of colour. Hope it will work out.

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  5. Fascinating technique you discovered, Harry. Being someone who loves texture and drizzles, this one really appeals to me and I'm glad you got the shine and light you were looking for in this one :)

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  6. Thanks Rhonda. You'll have to start rinsing out those old squeeze sauce bottles :D

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